Hiatus over??

Well it was a forced hiatus. Sorry I was away for a whole bloody year and more, but I have been reading and keeping up with all you amazing bloggers surviving and (somehow) thriving and being generally inspirational 🙂

I was super ill. I had a massive manic period, followed by a bout of deciding to stop eating, followed by getting better and realising that I had to do something to get my family out of the trap we’d found ourselves in, so I returned to work. Fuck mental health my god if there is anything that will put a person into poverty – which yes, exists in in developed countries too, all things being relative – it is shitty mental health.

Did I also mention I melted off my hair nearly a year ago? I was trying to go blue and made the mistake of leaving the bleach on for too long. So as well as feeling like crap I had Doc from Back to the Future hair for ages (well I still do but at least I can tie it back into a pony tail now!). I literally did not leave the flat for 4 months till I had to at Christmas.

So far so good ish? It’s a senior role, it’s tough and I have been in floods of tears and had to take days off when I just could not get out of bed, but I am doing it and have lasted beyond six months in a role for the first time in Fundraising since I was 30 (I am 38 this year – actually in less than a week). I have so much I want to share on my blog and so many ideas for things I want to do – but the good thing is that I am on Fluoxetine which has helped with the crippling anxiety and paranoia I was getting on top of the lithium and quetiapine, and we stopped psychotherapy because regressing was was actually making me worse.

We are MOVING HOUSE which such a big deal I cannot even begin to tell you how much I have come close to committing suicide because of our horrendous neighbours (and you know, it is serious not just an expression – their shit dance music is blaring and keeping my baby awake as I write but NOT FOR MUCH LONGER WOOOO). Once I am into my new house, hoping work does not kick my ass too much and so on, I want to return to this blog properly.

The most important thing is that my beautiful baby girl is thriving and doing so amazingly well. I am proud to say she is a typical toddler now at 2 and so gorgeous she makes my heart burst every time I look at her. So, more to follow, I will return to this slowly. Thanks for hanging in there with this blog of mine 🙂

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Hola

Well, it’s been a week or so since I last had a freak out about things. We’re currently in the middle of a heatwave here in The Netherlands and I’ve found that having several fans going at once 24 hours a day does much to block out the noise of the idiots upstairs. So things have been better in that regard.

My baby turned one a month or so ago. I didn’t find it as awful as I thought it would be, parents and in-laws notwithstanding. She gets more beautiful, awesome and temper-tantruming by the day which always makes me laugh rather than freak out. I find that I’m finally taking pleasure in her growing up and doing stuff, instead of being stuck in hospital at her bedside in intensive care as a newborn, or feeling that I missed out and failed her the first seven months of her life. I’ve not quite moved on yet but I am slowly getting there, and really notice it in her reactions to me now as well. We are much closer and I love it. She’s my little shadow.

I also had to go back to the useless psychiatrist who still didn’t have a clue about my dosage or really what I was about full stop. It wasn’t quite as bad as last time as she seemed to slightly give a shit about me as a human this time round. But to say I have zero confidence in her would be an understatement. I also had to attend the appointment on my own as DH had to work and she couldn’t wait to get me out of the door. Which suited me fine; my case worker always attends those sessions as well and he’s fantastic so I felt quite ok about it all. He was the one who got my prescription correct and really understood what I was getting at when trying to explain certain scenarios I have found stuck in a loop in my head.

What she did do which was alter my lithium so I now take 400mg in the morning and 400mg in the evening. I noticed that I was really struggling in the afternoons, to the point of refusing to move sometimes. We’ve switched it round so my dosage is more spread out and I am also getting fewer side effects now too. Even though it’s only been a couple of days I really notice the difference so that’s good.

We also discussed the rapid escalation I have to noise sensitivity, so I go from normal to suicidal at a rate of seconds if too much sound encroaches on my airspace. I’ve been doing a lot of headset on, but that only works when I’m not caring for my daughter of course. I still cannot tolerate any level of stress without freaking out. This also applies to when my daughter refuses food or won’t sleep, for example. I was getting better but that seems to have gone backwards a bit.

So until my mood stabilises, which I think the lithium is helping with greatly right now, they can’t do any treatment of whatever else it is – which is what they have said since I began treatment nearly 3 years ago so nothing new there. They were upping my psychotherapy when I fell pregnant and had to stop. So it’s been paused for nearly two years now and I am not sure what else they intend.

What this useless woman is also still hinting at is whether I have bipolar or not. She actually asked me whether I thought I had it and for a few seconds I was like wtaf, why the hell are you asking me? You’re the doctor! So I could only reply saying yes, as this was very different to the behaviour I had displayed before we moved – bipolar dominated everything in me before – and I got my diagnosis and your colleague on the floor above you told me categorically it was bipolar 1 not BPD. Dumbass.

Urgh.

What I didn’t have the opportunity to point out was that I had been doing rather well pre-pregnancy and that a huge amount of this had been bought on by the trauma of the difficult pregnancy, labour and then spell in intensive care. I’m pretty sure it bought out latent whatevers in terms of PTSD and has aggravated that significantly. There are several excellent bloggers on here who have made me realise what a massive impact going through pregnancy and childbirth can have on  your mental health.

Whether I get listened to is another matter but, whatever. The way I see it is that I have to do this to get my benefits and my lithium, and I’ll mark time till I get a better psychiatrist.They tend to rotate every year or so, I just have to bide my time. If she tries to change my diagnosis I will demand a second opinion.

Given that it’s my health up for debate here, I feel remarkably sanguine about the whole thing. What will happen will happen. I got a letter from the agency that pays benefits the other day saying I will switch from unemployment benefit to long-term sick in the middle of next month which I see as a good sign. I don’t have to pretend to want to work any more. No idea how it all works, but DH is in charge of that so I can relax.

I had a good day today. I walked to the supermarket, leaving DH who had the day off with the daughter and dog. I realised that, even with neighbours I could happily shoot on sight, I am actually very content right now we finally have our own space back and for the first time, I can be the mother I want to be with no one over my shoulder. The weather is super toasty, my baby is doing wonderfully well and I have such a great husband. We are completely stony broke but I actually appreciate things so much more than when I was able to buy whatever I wanted. I’m more thoughtful about things and the lithium controls that impuse urge to spend, spend spend.

I have been trying to do small things to make positive changes in my life. I’ve struggled with illness on and off the last few weeks so had to park running for now, but I intend on starting up again once the weather is less oppressive. Instead, I’ve changed my diet and cut out almost all carbs and sugar in an attempt to kick-start my weight loss. And it is amazing! I used to do this before to help me improve my diet and basically ditch donuts and chocolate, and so far a week in I’ve lost around 7 pounds and have way more energy than before. I am not uber-extreme as I do have sauces like ketchup and eat sweet potato etc – and I can’t live without Diet Coke right now – but I hope this will help me get back on the straight and narrow. When I was diagnosed hypothyroid I switched to a gluten-free diet and noticed a huge difference in bloat, weight and general cognition. So that’s my aim over the next few months is to getting to eat healthily and properly.

I am a bit wary as last time I lost a lot of weight I stopped eating – something that happens in every manic phase – and I lose a lot of weight. So DH and I are watching me closely to see if there are any signs of that but so far so good.

The other thing I have discovered is fan fiction. I’m going to write about that in a separate blog but in a nutshell I’ve been writing quite a bit since completing Dragon Age: Inquisition. I  have always wanted to write a proper fantasy story and the tale of my inquisitor caught my imagination like nothing has before and I found an outlet to share it. I’m also a sucker for a good love story – man Cullen is just the hottest character BioWare could have come up with – and it is so cool to craft my own fantasy romance 🙂

I have been writing a lot late at night. You could call it manic but I don’t think so. The signs are not there. There’s no starting and not finishing projects, obsessing madly over completely random things and the impulsive behaviour isn’t there. I only write when I have downtime i.e. my baby has been taken care of and is asleep or with someone else. Otherwise I do stuff with her and put this to one side. And sleep has been fairly lacking, but it is so hot I can’t get much rest anyway so I’m taking advantage of it. And sleeping during the day when my daughter sleeps helps too.

Don’t get me wrong – I could if I was able to write nonstop for weeks at a time about this story that has intrigued me  and I am always thinking what direction it’s going in next. But I can control it. Writing has made me feel alive again and I’m absolutely loving the outlet it gives me.

Useless woman thinks I am disassociating and I don’t agree. When I mentioned what I was doing – because I recognise that it isn’t normal to sit up eight days in a row to write and write and write with about 3 hours sleep a night – she immediately said disassociation which was rather frustrating. I just found it thoroughly enjoyable.

See here’s the thing. My psychologist tells me to stop associating everything with my illnesses. My psychiatrist doesn’t do anything but associate everything I do with my mental health. I feel like I can’t just BE. What is so bad about having my alternate universe to escape to? It isn’t actually any different than gaming for days on end. Why can’t I just enjoy this story telling that I want to do? It won’t last forever. I’m fed up of scrutinising everything and not just allowed to explore my own life without an axe of mental illness over my head.

In other news, I finally made it to a playgroup and it was actually ok. DH came with me which made it much easier. I still struggle to leave the house and do stuff like that on my own but it is getting easier.

Oh and DH and I also made it away for a weekend sans child! We went to Rock am Ring in Germany and it was fucking awesome. We only went for 2 days to save money on accommodation but we were one of the fortunate ones to catch Foo Fighters before they had to cancel their tour. I turned into Mama Smurf, going a bright electric blue for the event and DH got loads of ideas about the new vinyl business he is starting up. And it was fun to just drink a few beers and enjoy time with each other (DH doesn’t drink, bonus for me on not having to drive to and from the hotel). German festivals are awesome, so laid back and relaxed. DH quite rightly pointed out the difference in atmosphere compared to the UK, where everyone just releases all that pent up straight-lacedness and ends up in a huge fight, whereas in Germany even the drunk and drugged up people were so polite to each other. No undercurrents of aggression and it was so relaxing for me. The weather was also fantastic – I’m waaaay too old to be slumming it in the mud and rain just for the sake of the festival atmosphere 😀 in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed that in my life.

So, name of the game going forward – continue to lose weight, get some more regular exercise, sit out the heatwave and play as much as possible with my baby. And ignore what I can’t change i.e. wankers upstairs and useless police forces. Just work on our escape route in the long term and in the short term plan lots of nice one-night trips away!Rock and

Sleep, just a little, would be amazing…….

I was proud of myself today – I drove to see DH and his dad in a different town to visit the market where they were working.

I feel sensitive to everything sometimes. I feel crowded in and panicked and stressed. Even the tv show on is making me feel so edgy. It isn’t something I want to watch either but normally I find a way to tune it out. It’s hard living with the in-laws and no end in sight to when we can move back home, but I cope with it sometimes better than others.

The worst is when this affects what I do with my baby. I find it hard to leave the house so going out with her is stressful, but I do do it. People buzzing round me in the shops and on the tram is hard work but I do it. But I have noticed there are certain things that happen which I find freak me out/stress me out beyond reason:

– the whole weaning thing

– getting her down to sleep

How do I parent effectively without letting these wretched illnesses take over and hit me on two key areas of my daughter’s development?

Sleep
I’m going to focus on the sleep for now. Weaning, and the uber anxiety I have around that is a whole different story. It is, of course, part of the whole picture but for now sleep has been the most pressing. I’m finding ways of living with the whole weaning thing.

We haven’t had much sleep in this house recently. The poor lamb had a temperature and prior to that a stomach bug. I was feeling pleased with the sleep routine we had established and she was getting pretty good at sleeping through the night. I am trying to be relaxed and laid back about most things but sleep I feel quite regimental about. It’s so important for people without a mental health problem to get enough rest, but then add the bipolar, BPD and now PTSD into the mix and bam, I need to make sure I get enough sleep or I could end up horribly sick again.

So when she’s wailing away in her cot and standing up and refusing to lie down and just rest at 3am I feel beyond frazzeled. More often than not DH has done the night shift so I don’t have to worry. But now I find that I am getting obsessed by the fact she’s gone back to sleep in our bed four nights in a row, she won’t go down now until gone 9pm and is wide awake again 4 hours later and I just don’t have a clue how to make it stop.

It’s awful to say but I find myself focused so much on the ‘how do I make it stop’ at 3am rather than ‘how do I project calm and reassurance’ and ‘what can I do for my baby to make her comfortable’. The latter two of course solve the whole sleep issue for everyone. I do end up doing the former, and then end up having to leave the room after none too gently poking DH awake to get him to take over. Then I feel guilty because there’s a howling baby that I helped put in that state and an exhausted husband who has to get up and go to work in a few hours whilst I slope off and make myself a mug of warm milk and have some quiet time to calm me down.

I have been told, and read, that babies who had traumatic births and long labours tend to be the ones struggling with sleep issues/separation anxiety. Of course my baby girl had to go through both with a stay in NICU so I do believe there is some validity in that argument. Some babies also aren’t great sleepers either. Basically, teething is also a bitch.

What I find is that these things, which the vast majority of parents go through, are then magnified and multiplied in my head into 1000x worse than they probably are. I can easily see how, if pushed too much, it is at risk of becoming a child protection issue. With the latter I am fortunate in that I receive plenty of support and talking therapy to help me, and DH is as ever such a star, but I find the paranoia blooming in that area as well – basically I am terrified to do anything that may be perceived as hurting or harming my child. So that colours my parenting too. My talking therapy is actually around me reducing the distance I have put between myself and my daughter and to reduce the anxiety I have that I will hurt her somehow. Apparently common among people who were abused as kids, but it manifests itself in so many different ways as a parent.  Here it is because I am trying to over-control something which really can only be controlled to a certain extent. I am rather obsessed with it all.

The result is becoming quite toxic. I am sure the majority of parents living with a mental health problem don’t have to camp out at their in laws, facing an uncertain future financially and wondering where they will end up and how they will raise their child amid such randomness. I do hope my circumstances are not the same – I wouldn’t wish it on anyone and it definitely exacerbates what I am living with. My in laws are very nice, well meaning people and I will be ever grateful for them giving us a roof over our heads – but lordy I have nothing in common with them whatsoever! And holy hell when they clunk around and disturb the baby when she is asleep I am not responsible for my feelings at that present moment in time. But we can’t move. We are stuck as our apartment is not a suitable environment for a baby right now.

At 3am I am petrified that the boundaries will drop. I end up feeling like a failure that I have to step away so often. It’s why I feel I am regressing in my head, the creeping sensation that something is trying to crawl under my skin and into my brain. Why I had to go and find a quiet spot to sit and write these thoughts out, just to bring some sense of calm and order back to me, similar in a way that my autistic cousin has to go and find some peace. There is so much chaos that I struggle to even bring order to something as simple as laundry, something as straightforward as giving my daughter a bottle, or even putting her into bed. I can’t manage it sometimes. My reaction is way above what it should be.

I have renewed respect for single parents every day who are going through this alone with no one to turn to. DH always picks up the slack, so our daughter is never left wanting and I get some quiet moments to myself. My advice would be always to talk about it. Don’t be afraid that you will be judged. I know I feel like I am the only parent in my version of hell but I know I am not. Talking helps, whether it is with your GP if you have no one else to turn to, your health visitor, your parents, your friends. Never feel like parenting is some kind of competition and look for the signs that you may be spending more time worrying over something than is normal. It’s difficult to know what is normal, I know, but there are triggers. Your partner should always be the first port of call, but some are non existent or may as well be non existent for all the use they are. I am blessed in that regard. So for me, it’s off to the doctor again next week to explore this further and letting DH follow his parenting instincts taking care of the baby at night and me letting him just get on with it.

The responsibility of being a parent, and a mother, is huge and I really don’t want to ruin it because I can’t cope. She is the most amazing thing that has happened to me and she deserves the best ❤

And please wish me luck in reclaiming some sleepy time 😀

I’m back!

I will write more. I am sorry I haven’t posted for months! But such is the joy and bittersweet elation of becoming a new mother. I have a gorgeous beautiful baby girl who is the light of my life and oh crumbs is six months old soon. But my word, the ups and downs of bipolar and pregancy and the whole WHAT THEY DON’T TELL YOU AFTER  YOU GIVE BIRTH. I want to make a whole website dedicated to it just to help other women – and their partners – who have to go through it all. Labour was actually a hugely cathartic experience. And the sheer bliss and joy of holding my newborn in my hands was the most transformational, wonderful moment.

As to all that happened afterwards, I will leave it for now. Writing is my release so perhaps I will find the words to describe the final months leading up to the birth, and the months after, to give me some form of therapy. At the moment I waver between sheer happiness and crying nonstop at nothing in particular. It has taken me a long time to adjust.

For now though, let’s just say that I have overdone it. My medication has been adjusted. I am back in the UK. My husband has been my rock but even so has come close to breaking. But we look at our sweet adorable baby and feel so humbled and blessed, and we find the strength to get up and go on again. Just a cuddle or shy smile or giggle from her transforms my whole day. Becoming a mother was the best thing that could have happened to me. And, when all is said and done, I look at my little family and know that, once I am out of my thick, black pea soup in my head (the only way I can describe my world at the moment) all is well in the real world.

I will return……

It’s a boy/girl/alien/I can’t relate/guilt/aaaaaah

Firstly, I talk a tiny bit about sexual abuse in this post so please don’t read on if you think it might be too much for you. Not much as I am banned from thinking about it by my psychologist! but it very much relates to what I want to write about today.

And sorry it has been a little while since my last post. Somehow water got into my laptop and it wouldn’t work for a while. As with the miracles of technology here it is up and running again!

I have had time to think about what to write about next. As ever, so many words and so many ideas and limited space to write about it. I’ve also been extremely tired these last few days and had an unwelcome return to hg, along with a dip in my thyorid so it’s been a bit of a trying time.

What has been on my mind though throughout this is my baby. You may well think ‘well durrrrr, it’s inside you, how can you not think about it’ but really, it’s surprisingly easy to distance yourself in your head from what is happening to your body. I mean, people do it all the time if they are over/underweight etc. So even though your belly looks like Mt Versuvius, the baby’s kicking you in the bladder in the middle of the night and you get out of breath after walking 5 paces, still it doesn’t feel real.

Something that has been real, however, has been finding out that it’s a girl. As some of you know, I was abused by our (female) housekeeper as a child from the age of 3-6. Basically as soon as she could get me on her own once my mum left my dad. So, no detail here on what happened as it isn’t relevant (and as said, I’m not allowed to think about it). Also it had the knock on effect of making my relationship with my mother even worse.

Mum engages in what DH describes as ‘psychological warfare’ which, for me with bipolar and resulting Borderline Personality Disorder traits from the abuse, meant we did not have a happy time of it with each other growing up. Mum has an ambivalent relationship with women doesn’t like them but is attentive to men to the point of fawning all over them. So I grew up with that.

Before you think she’s an evil bitch, no she isn’t. She is damaged in her own way, but the problem is she can’t see what she is like because no one has ever told her. As soon as this twigged with me it was easier to deal with. I got an education and I got out. After spending most of my 20s trying to please her, it wasn’t until I met DH and started to really understand me as a person and my illness that I could stop the guilt of never being good enough and begin to get angry about what happened, and start to heal myself.

So, this is not about the woes between me and my mum or my abuse. It’s about the impact this had on me finding out we were having a girl. I was at first elated, and then terrified. The fear was awful. And memories of my abuse resurfaced.

Before finding out the sex of our baby at 20 weeks, I was convinced it was a boy. I don’t know why. I just didn’t want to think of it being a girl. Part of me also wanted a mini-me of DH 🙂 but a large part of me didn’t want to think of what it would be like, or what I’d have to face up to, if it was a girl. Which was very funny as I knew DH wanted a girl and before falling pregnant we thought it would be a girl we’d want first. We even had the name ready.

When confronted with the ‘it’s a girl’ news I then went into hibernation in my brain. I was listening to hypnotherapy cds telling you to bond with your baby and all I got was a white, blank wall. I got flashbacks of what happened to me when I was little. I thought of the misery I had growing up and as a teenager. And I was just plain scared.

I hadn’t seen my psychologist for a while so DH made me call her to make an appointment. It was such a relief to talk to someone about it and she immediately asked how I felt having a girl. Being able to share my fears about my daughter going through exactly what I went through was a relief.

Firstly, I now know rationally that I won’t be an abuser myself. The idea makes me want to puke. But there’s that tiny seed in your mind that has read online that those who are abused turned into abusers. Even writing this freaks me out a bit. Fortunately my psychiatrist said that was not the case and just the fact that I found it abhorrent meant that I would be ok. There’s also that fear that other people will think you’re abusing your child. I still  have that a bit but DH has told me that I’m being ridiculous. All this irrational stuff that I think I know is now irrational and will be ok.

The other thing is other people abusing your child. I know that the majority of kids never experience this. I know though that abuse is hidden and happens far more than we realise. DH and I have talked about it and he says, very sensibly, that all we can do is educate her to look after herself and that she trusts us to come to us with anything. He points out that I never had that trust or stability at home so by providing a loving environment we can minimise the risk to her.

As for what happened between me and my mother, well I was terrified too of projecting onto her my own experiences. I think we try so hard not to be our parents anyway, but here I really was trying to go the opposite! I started to post on a few threads on Mumsnet that really helped. It was good to see that other women found having daughters very therapeutic in helping them get over their issues with daughters. It’s silly, I have close female friends and I know I don’t dislike women the way my mother does. What my psychologist and ladies online said was that having self awareness was half the battle in ensuring history doesn’t get repeated.

And I was told to not worry so much 🙂 I felt soooooo guilty that I wasn’t some beaming earth mother. I felt like I had something growing in me that was so far removed from my sense of reality.

Interestingly, the memories of abuse returning coincided with my lithium levels dropping around the start of the year. Finding out I was having a girl was a trigger for memories I had ruthlessly repressed my whole life and boy were they buried deep. I was retreating back into my little world of doom scenarios, paranoia and clawing blackness. This was punctuated by memories that left me feeling like I’d been punched in the gut. I was so paralysed sometimes I couldn’t move. AND the hormones of pregnancy meant I felt emotionally all over the place and wasn’t able to cope with the most unwelcome, intrusive thoughts returning.

Fortunately my psychiatrist bullied me into taking more lithium. As my levels started to rise again, so my control returned over my memories. I developed techniques with my psychologist to distract myself when the thoughts of abuse came back. Every time I would associate an action I’d do with my baby with abuse, I would think of all the positives and doing things with DH rather than the fact that act had led to my situation. Or, I just think to myself ‘I’ll deal with it when it happens’. It’s very dangerous to have psychotherapy when pregnant – it’s not allowed. So during this time I have to distract myself until I can deal with these new memories at an appropriate time.

I’m much more in control now. I’m doing pregnancy yoga more and find myself finally getting more excited about having a baby. I couldn’t relate to it for ages and ages. But now she’s kicking and moving around it’s easier (and scarier haha) to think ‘wow I’m having a girl’. I can’t wait to cuddle her and tell her how much I love her. I can’t wait to tell her how wanted she is. I send those thoughts to her all the time and DH talks to my belly telling her how excited he is to play with his baby girl in three months. I can’t wait to read to her some of my favourite books that were mine as a child, take her to absorb all the museums and galleries and just mooch around in summer looking at all the beautiful architecture and canals and clogs and stuff 🙂

Still scared. Still worried I’ll turn into my mum. But I don’t think that will happen. I will make mistakes. But what I will let my daughter know is that she is loved, wanted and will always have stability, safety and security with her parents. I never had that and if that’s what I can provide to her then to me that means more than all the playstations, clothes and toys in the world. Material counts for nothing – love and being loved is everything.